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A letter from Barbara Nagy serving in Malawi
September 2014 - Improvements and Challenges
Walking into the Nkhoma Hospital pediatrics ward after a two-year-long study leave is an exciting experience! A major renovation that was under way when I left in 2012 has been completed, and the outcome is wonderful. For the first time in my tenure in Malawi we have a bed for every patient and adequate space for the staff to get to the patients for care. There are plugs for oxygen and other pieces of equipment, which are crucial for taking care of these small lives.
There is a beautiful, open triage area where the sickest children can be quickly stabilized while the limited nursing staff can keep visual check on the children already in the ward beds. Turning around in the triage room you see a large sink and bank of cubbyholes holding everything necessary to care for a sick child. Trivial as these things may seem, they are the difference between life and death when a wave of critically ill children hits the pediatrics ward, sometimes more than 100 in a day, with only a few nurses and clinicians.Continue reading
A letter from Rusty Edmondson in the U.S., on Interpretation Assignment from Peru
October 2014 - Making a Difference
This fall Sara and I visited my brother and his family in northern New Mexico. They live on a ranch about 40 miles from the nearest town. It is a lifestyle that I remember well and occasionally long to return to, especially when I am trapped in Lima traffic during rush hour.
One day as my brother and I drove around an area of the ranch to work on some maintenance projects, he asked me, “How long have you been down there (in Peru)? “Six years,” I replied. “Wow, has it really been that long?” he asked. “Si, time travels quickly when you are having fun,” I said. We spotted several elk grazing in a field near an aspen grove. He stopped the truck, and we quietly walked to a nearby pine tree with our binoculars to get a better view. While we were looking at those majestic animals he asked me another question. "Hosting all those mission folks, are they…are you making a difference? How are lives being changed?” I continued to look at the elk through my binoculars, but in my mind what I was seeing were the many Peruvian friends who have made such a huge impact on Sara’s life and mine.Continue reading
A letter from Rochelle and Tyler Holm serving in Malawi
Fall 2014 - Family
Mbali versus vabali.
These words almost sound the same in the local language of Chitumbuka. The irony of this is mbali means dinner plate and vabali means family, and sharing family meals is a strong part of the Malawi culture. We often have people, sometimes lots of people (!), over at our home. Eating is always an event and a time to share with others. The idea of grabbing a quick bite or especially eating at your desk while you continue working through the day is very foreign. Whether sharing tea with colleagues and their families or hosting visitors passing through Mzuzu, a shared meal makes an extended family.
As we approach our two-year mark in Malawi, more than ever we are made to feel part of the family of the Church of Central African Presbyterian Synod of Livingstonia and the global church through our Presbyterian World Mission service. As maybe with any new professional position, our first year in Malawi was really spent listening and learning. We are still have lots of listening and learning to do, but recently we are beginning to feel much better settled into our positions so that we can work more effectively.Continue reading
A letter from Jan Heckler in the U.S., on Interpretation Assignment from Madagascar
Autumn 2014 - Two Worlds
It is very early morning. I walk over the tarmac at Ivato International Airport in Antananarivo, Madagascar, with the other passengers to the huge, wide-bodied airbus. I am painfully aware of my friends and colleagues I am leaving for the next six months, especially Pastor Mamisoa and her husband, who brought me to the airport late Thursday night. It is with Mamisoa that I have partnered on just about every element of my ministry that I’ve worked on in the past 15 months. But I am also filled with anticipation since I have not been home to the United States since early April in 2012, more than two years and five months ago.
This is the longest I have ever been away "from home," and the longest I’ve ever lived and worked in a majority world country. I have coped with my homesickness in part by not allowing myself to think a very great deal about all that my heart and palate have longed for. But now, with the Air France flight just steps away, my mind is exploding with thoughts of being home once more.Continue reading
A letter from Tim and Gloria Wheeler serving in Honduras
Fall 2014 - Eat and Drink at My Table
World Communion Sunday reminds me of all that we have in common with others of our faith around the world and brings us close to them in a special way. Luke 22:29-30: “And I confer on you a kingdom…so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom…” Some of these thoughts came to me as I drove along route 70 going east, helping our daughter move. Gloria and I were on vacation during September and used the time to visit our girls and get some yearly medical checkups. Happily, everything worked out for us on both of these fronts.
The move from Ohio to Pennsylvania reminded me of our journey through life in some ways. I think our daughter had packed all of her belongings in that 14-foot truck, including her hopes and dreams for the future and probably some fears concerning the change. A week later she had successfully started her new job, been taken in by her sister and brother-in-law as she adjusts to the area and looks for her own apartment, and gotten great comments from her boss, who was heard saying, “That is why I hired her.”
The relation of our own moving experience to World Communion Sunday is that of truly trusting in our Creator. Our fear and concerns can often be quickly overcome if we stay the course and trust in our point of departure and expected goal. But what about people in other parts of the world, what about people in Honduras, where we are serving? For many of them to stay the course means to continue with the difficult situation—of poverty, perhaps violence, and lack of opportunities—that they already are confronted with.Continue reading
A letter from Kay Day serving in Rwanda
October 2014 - Equipping the Saints
Dear Family and Friends,
Greetings from Rwanda. As you are carving pumpkins and preparing for autumn festivities, we have just celebrated graduation at the Protestant Institute of Arts and Social Sciences (PIASS). The timing may seem a bit off, from an American perspective, but it works well for us. Classes ended in July, so August and September are for students defending their final papers and finishing the paper work so they can graduate. Graduation is held just before the beginning of the new school term. The final-year students who do not complete the work in time go to the parishes to which they have been assigned to begin their internships and to struggle to finish their papers while serving in their village assignments. This presents a challenge, since in many cases they have no electricity, much less Internet access. For that reason it takes many of them more than a year to complete the process and return to campus to defend their papers and graduate. The weeks before graduation were busy as former students returned to finish the process. In addition to serving as an examiner for one of the papers, I assisted many in the editing of the final papers since English is a third language for them. I had plenty of work myself.Continue reading
A letter from Choon Lim in South Korea (Regional Liaison for East Asia)
September 2014 - Christian Forum for Reconciliation
Dear Friends and Partners in Mission,
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” 2 Corinthians 5:18.
As part of World Mission’s call to address violence around the world, we invite individuals and congregations to consider engaging more deeply in God’s work of reconciliation in cultures of violence, including our own. God’s work of reconciliation is the heart of the gospel message. One of my roles is to facilitate and implement ministries of reconciliation in my East Asia area.
On April 21-25, 2014, the first-ever Christian Forum for Reconciliation in East Asia brought together 43 Christian practitioners, church leaders, and educators from China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. to strengthen their work for God’s ministry of peace and reconciliation in the region. Over five remarkable days of worship, learning, and friendship across divides, the Forum engaged serious contextual challenges through a Christian vision for peace based on a Scriptural framework.Continue reading
A letter from Dennis Smith in the U.S., on Interpretation Assignment from Argentina (Regional liaison for Brazil and Southern Cone)
October 2014 - The Meaning of Citizenship
A meditation on citizenship
One of our goals for this time in the U.S. is for Maribel to be naturalized as a U.S. citizen. I confess to a certain ambiguity about citizenship—not ambivalence, but ambiguity. I’ve lived most of my life in Latin America. While I’m honored to be a U.S. citizen, regularly exercise my right to vote, and do my best to contribute to the common good, I’m also very aware of competing loyalties. I’m aware that after so many decades living in Latin America I’ve ceased to fully “belong” in the U.S., but also realize that I’ll never fully “belong” in Latin America.
Living betwixt and between is an essential component of mission co-worker identity.
I remember well when our youngest son, now in university in Argentina, was part of the Guatemalan national speed skating team. When in high school, he was Central American regional champion for two years running. When he would receive a gold medal at an international competition, his teammates would proudly drape him in the Guatemalan flag. He is, of course, both a Guatemalan and a U.S. citizen. Proud tears would flow from my eyes when they played the Guatemalan national anthem.Continue reading
A letter from Tracey King-Ortega serving in Nicaragua
September 2014 - Seminar to US/Mex border
It is no longer front-page news, but the crisis remains a crisis. This year more than 52,000 unaccompanied minors, the majority coming from the northern triangle of Central America (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador), have crossed into the United States. I've been asked a lot over the past couple of months for insight into what is going on. I am far from an expert on the topic, but I do have some opinions to share.
I remember years back when the immigration issue was mothers leaving their children behind to find work in the U.S. in order to send money back to support their children. They made the difficult decision to leave because they wanted to find a way to provide a better life for their kids. However, the separation was hard on their children. Being a bit critical, I thought, “Wouldn't they be better subsisting on rice and beans and having their mother rather than her leaving and sending back money for fancy shoes and clothes?” But now it is the children who are risking their lives by trying to cross the border. It seems that many of these kids aren't so much running to something as they are leaving to escape the violence. It is really scary, what is happening in parts of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Much of the current violence is a legacy of gangs exported (deported) from the U.S. to these countries.Continue reading
A letter from Esther Wakeman serving in Thailand
Fall 2014 - Developing Global Citizens
Adding to the joy of working with our new president at Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand, Dr. Sompan Wongdee (see my Summer letter), I’m delighting in my new assistant, Thosaphon Bunsiri (Jim), who is responsible for Student Development. Dr. Sompan reorganized Payap administratively and added Student Development to my portfolio. Jim was a student leader while he studied at Payap and graduated in Hotel Management. He became a teacher with us, and went on to do a master’s degree in Information Systems. He’s now completing his doctorate in that field. In fact, he graciously agreed to return to work full time as he completes his Ph.D. to help us in Student Development. I am so glad. He’s smart, organized, computer-savvy, people-savvy, and highly motivated to help with Dr Sompan’s vision to make Payap a great place to learn and work, and move us toward our vision of being an International Learning Resource, Developing Global Citizens.Continue reading
A letter from Ruth Brown serving in Congo
Fall 2014 - Praising God at All Hours
Muoyo webe! (Life to you!)
Every morning now, beginning around 7 a.m., the street in front of my apartment is filled with children dressed in white shirts and navy skirts or pants. Their laughter, chatter, and song are welcome sounds! At the outskirts of Kananga, on the grounds of a center originally built to re-socialize child soldiers, these sounds of excitement can also be heard because the 22 former street children, ages 6 to 16 years, in the Ditekemena (“Hope”) Program in Kananga, were able to begin school classes, and due to an incredibly generous gift from Shepherd-Lapsley Presbytery in Alabama these children will be able to continue their classes all this school year! About half of the children had missed at least two years of school, many had missed four years, and several had never attended school. Two boys were able to attend regular, public school. The other 20 children have been divided into three levels of classes for which teachers are using the Congolese government’s special “make-up curricula,” accelerated courses designed to advance the children to their age-appropriate levels of education. Ditekemena’s 23rd child, Noella, who will be 2 years old on Christmas Day, 2014, is the sister of Abiba, a 12-year-old in the program. Noella is finally learning to walk after Ditekemena staff encouraged the older children to stop carrying her and to allow her to spend more time trying to walk by herself.Continue reading
A letter from Mark Adams and Miriam Maldonado serving in Mexico
September 2014 - Building Together
Dear Sisters and Brothers:
You too are being built together as a dwelling in which God dwells by God’s Spirit. —Ephesians 2:22
Ephesians 2:11-22 was chosen 30 years ago to be the theme passage for all of the Presbyterian Border Ministry, of which Frontera de Cristo is a part. On November 22 we will be celebrating our 30th anniversary, giving thanks to God for the ways in which we have been, are being, and will be built together as a dwelling for God—folks from the U.S. and folks from Mexico; poor and rich; folks recovering from addictions, teetotalers, and folks not yet in recovering; conservative and liberal; Presbyterian, Catholic, Mennonite, Quaker, Episcopalian, non-denominational, seeker, people of conscience, and others.
In August we were blessed to have Juna Rosales Mueller come and share three weeks with us, working with DouglaPrieta and CRREDA in the continued development of a vision that she first had in the Lirio de los Valles Presbyterian Church sanctuary as part of the Woolman School Mission Education Delegation three years ago. After spending over six hours with our Agua Para La Vida ministry, walking migrant trails in the desert and encountering many clothes that had been left behind by the persons migrating, Juna reflected on her experiences of the day and saw a quilt forming from the clothes—a quilt that would help tell the human story of migration and would serve to build relationships and understanding across borders.Continue reading
A letter from Tom and Judy Harvey serving in England
October 2014 - Students Behind the News
Dear Friends and Partners in Mission,
For those of you not familiar with the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (OCMS), we have 113 doctoral students from over 40 nations who continue to serve in often very difficult situations even as they pursue their research. This means that one of the great joys and sorrows at OCMS is simply reading the news.
When I read about the flood of Muslim, Christian and Yazidi refugees fleeing the violence in Iraq, my thoughts turn to our student Malkhaz Songulashvili in Georgia. Currently Malkhaz is struggling to cope with the massive tide of individuals and families flooding into Tblisi. Not only are they in desperate need of food, clothing and shelter, they have suffered horrible physical, psychological and spiritual trauma. Georgia is a poor nation and therefore dealing with the onslaught of refugees as the bitter Georgian winter prepares to set in is an impossible task. Further, many Georgians despise the refugees, and ethnic tensions are rising. Malkhaz must work as well to address the frustration of his fellow Georgians even as he attempts to work with the refugees. Malkhaz’s research has uniquely prepared him for this difficult work. His research specialty is addressing conflict and reconciliation between the churches and peoples of the region. He is a bridge-builder in the right place, with the right training and at the right time.Continue reading
A letter from Stephen and Brenda Stelle serving in Ethiopia
September 2014 - A Surprising September
On Monday, September 1, we began the move to Dembi Dollo. We loaded up an Isuzu truck with all our things (much that was given to us) and by 9 am the Addis apartment was completely empty. We flew out of Addis early Tuesday morning, arrived in Gambella, and were on our way in a synod vehicle by 8:30 am. Very Nice! Very Simple! Just as Planned!
On the outskirts of Gambella we were surprised to see a man standing in the middle of the road, waving us down. It was obvious his arm was broken, hanging limply, and giving him great pain. To the right of the man we saw an Isuzu truck that had slid off the muddy road and crashed into a large tree.
Kana (as we learned later) had been a passenger in the Isuzu truck. He begged us for a ride to the hospital in Dembi Dollo. Our truck was full of people (the two of us, the driver, the driver’s mother, the driver’s brother and the driver’s friend), but we managed to get him into the vehicle. He was in a lot of pain, moaning and groaning, and we still had a three-hour drive up the mountain. Brenda found some Tylenol and gave it to him to ease his suffering and made him comfortable, using some of our clothes for a pillow. (Brenda’s dad wanted her to either become a teacher or a nurse; perhaps in Africa she will be both.)Continue reading
A letter from Nancy Dimmock serving in the U.S.
September 2014 - Transition
For our multi-cultural, internationally raised children, the hardest question to answer, and the most frequently asked in a new environment, is “Where are you from?” There are a number of reasonable answers to this question—their current address (east Louisville), the country they came from most recently (Zambia), where they were raised (Malawi or Lesotho), or where they were born (Malawi or the U.S.). In the “All about me” time at Jackson’s new elementary school, Jackson chose to tell his classmates that he was from Zambia in southern Africa. But two days later he came storming off the school bus saying, “I wish I had never told anyone I was from Africa. They keep asking me silly questions like, ‘Did you play with tigers?’ Don’t they know that tigers are in India?
Alifa, knowing it is unlikely that kids at her school know either Lesotho or Malawi, has told them that she is from South Africa. And still she gets the question, “Where is that?” Really?
It is no wonder that Andrew, the only one who can honestly say he is “from” the U.S. (having been born in Atlanta), has chosen to minimize the differences by giving his birthplace as the answer to this difficult question.
A letter from Inge Sthreshley in Congo
September 25, 2014 - Containing Ebola
It was 2007 and Ebola had just been confirmed at the town of Luebo. Larry was coordinating for a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) team to get set up on the ground at Luebo Presbyterian Hospital to help contain the Ebola outbreak. Two CDC folks were already in Kinshasa and more of the team would be arriving in the next two days. The team would need a place to stay at Luebo. An old mission home was available, but it would take a lot of work to get it ready. Larry called me, “Inge, could you and Katherine go shopping tomorrow and buy everything needed to set up a “guesthouse” for a maximum of 16 people and food for one week?”
If I was going to be shopping the next day to set up house for 16 people, I needed to work on a major shopping list. I made the initial list and then walked through my own house to see what was absolutely essential in each room. Early the next morning my friend Katherine Niles and I picked up the $10,000 for the shopping trip. We each put $1,000 into our purses and $4,000 into the bottom of one of our shoes. Shopping with credit or debit cards was not an option and carrying around that much money in a purse was a risk. We compared and finalized lists and hit the ground. David Law, another missionary, was buying all the tools and materials to work on the house itself, the plumbing, generator, lights, screening for windows, etc.Continue reading
A letter from Kurt Esslinger serving in South Korea
September 2014 - God Is In Korea
Greetings friends, family, and supporters,
An entire year of Young Adult Volunteers (YAVs) in Korea with us has passed and a new set of young adults has already hit the ground full speed in struggling to adapt to a new culture. Also, Happy Chuseok! The Korean Harvest Festival just passed this past week, and Hyeyoung, Sahn, and I went to see the grandparents in Ulsan, eating ourselves silly.
We did not have much time to reflect on our first set of YAVs since they headed back to the States in July because I started the additional new position (working with the National Council of Churches in Korea's Reconciliation and Reunification Department), which takes me to Seoul for three days every week. Chuseok gave us a little bit of breathing time, however, and we feel very positive about our work and the future potential for this site. We have much work to do in terms of expanding the site and adding some diversity to the volunteer opportunities, but we have a solid foundation to work from.Continue reading
A letter from Burkhard Paetzold serving as Regional Liaison for Central and Eastern Europe, based in Germany
Fall 2014 - European Christians' Meeting
I hope you enjoyed a great summer!
Let me thank you for all your prayers and support. I thank you in particular for your peace prayers, it's so much needed in Ukraine as well as in the Middle East these days.
German churches prepare for their annual Ecumenical Peace Decade festival, November 9-19. The theme is "Befreit zum Widerstehen" (Liberated to Resist). During the yearly 10 days of the "Friedensdekade" (Peace Decade) many churches join in worship services and prayer groups, or show movies, invite peace activists, develop creative workshops, and much more. This is to remind us to resist cultures of violence, including the violence in our own culture.
In Europe we have just commemorated 100 years since the beginning of World War I and 75 years since the beginning of World War II. Ironically at the same time leading German politicians are discussing whether Germany should assume greater international responsibility. This would also include more participation in "military" interventions. Given that Germany was an aggressor in both wars, a majority of Germans soon after World War II agreed "to never touch a gun again." But then the Cold War began and both East and West Germany within their respective military blocks rearmed gradually and targeted each other.Continue reading
Thank You and Your Family for serving God by taking His word so far from Your Home.
God is doing his work and using us a tools in other nations.during my working here in Athens i observed that there are many oppertunities to share the Gospel massage with other those do not know Jesus and we can bring them to Jesus Christ.Please prayer for me that i'm a very littel to that God is using me here in Athens Greece. God bless you.